Madagascar: U.S. Calls for Return to Democratic Rule

Madagascar's interim leader Andry Rajoelina and members of the military.
5 November 2010

A senior United States diplomat told the Malagasy people this week that the political structures and processes created by their de facto government were “insufficiently democratic and consensual.”

Karl Wycoff, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for east Africa, said on a visit to the capital, Antananarivo, that there were “a number of significant problems with the current political process.”

These included “the creation and operation of a variety of transitional bodies, the constitutional referendum now scheduled for November 17th and the proposed electoral calendar," he said.

Madagascar has been in political crisis since Andry Rajoelina, a media personality and the former mayor of  Antananarivo, dissolved Madagascar's parliament, replaced high court judges and swore himself in as transitional head of state in March last year. He deposed the constitutionally-elected president, Marc Ravalomanana.

Since then the country has not been ruled democratically, the economy has been damaged and the Malagasy people have faced hardships. Diplomatic efforts aimed at returning the country to constitutional rule, mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have so far failed.

Speaking during a visit to the island nation on Tuesday, Wycoff said the U.S. was “committed to a return of durable democratic, constitutional governance in Madagascar.”

He called on all parties to re-engage in discussions to find an acceptable roadmap resulting in the return to democratic rule with free and fair elections.

"The de facto holders of political power bear a special responsibility and have a unique opportunity to create the conditions for an open political process," he stressed. He said opposition and other political figures, as well as Madagascar’s vibrant non-governmental and civil society organizations, have an important role to play.

"The U.S. calls on all parties to avoid actions that might lead to violence and calls on the security services to avoid actions that would be seen as interference with or intimidation by political and civil society actors, as those actors seek to resolve the ongoing crisis," he added.

Wycoff said that the political crisis has wrought much damage on the economy and imposed unnecessary hardship on the Malagasy people. He told them the U.S. had been legally obliged to suspend Madagascar’s participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program. A return to democratic rule would allow the restoration of the benefits of the programme.

The United States has enjoyed “a positive, long-standing relationship with the people of Madagascar,” he said.  The U.S. continued its commitment to help the Malagasy people with humanitarian assistance totaling U.S. $85 million a year.

“We fully support continued mediation by SADC and believe that the international community must play a constructive, facilitative role, as they have with other countries that have gone through sustained political crises," he concluded.

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